How to get into Oxford or Cambridge as an International Student


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1. Getting an early start:

It is advisable to start the process as soon as possible. Ideally, a two or three-year headstart before you begin your application is best. This will allow you to focus on achieving high grades, deciding which qualifications will be best & establishing a good understanding of the English language. You will need to make sure the qualifications you choose to study will be recognised by the universities. Additionally, you must meet the basic requirements for your course, such as achieving the grade requirements, demonstrating that you have gone above & beyond what is expected of you in the classroom. When deciding if you want to study in the UK, it is important to keep in mind whether this is a route for you. It is important to have a clear sense of your objective, researching the subject you are interested in studying at university & looking into what colleges at these universities are best for you.

It is important to manage your expectations, for instance, if you do not have the high grades & are not at the top of the class, then it is advised that you consider carefully if Oxford or Cambridge is the best route for you. However, there are exceptions, for example, if there are certain extenuating circumstances which are preventing you from achieving the best grades, then these universities may re-consider your circumstances. But remember, these universities are looking for a certain type of student & the competition for these universities is fierce.

2. Meeting basic requirements:

Since the competition for places is tough, it is a must that you meet the minimum grade requirements for the course you’ve chosen. There is an expectation that you to attend the interviews in person. However, if you are a student outside the EEA & cannot get a visa in time for your interview, then the university will consider the circumstances & be understanding. But again, it is best that you do meet in person, in order to demonstrate your capability & prove that you deserve a place at Oxford or Cambridge. The threshold is high across the board and so, there is no ‘easy way’ to get into these universities. The admissions board are scrupulous & these universities have high expectations of its students, both domestic & international, no matter which course.

3. English Language Requirement:

Your English language skills must be very good. At Oxford & Cambridge, they have a high standard of English for both domestic and international students.

4. Using UCAS:

Once you have researched & determined which course you want to study, you can start creating your profile on UCAS. This is an admissions service who deals with all the applications for any higher education course/university in the UK. Your profile on UCAS is split into five sections;

  • Personal information: Here you will fill out details such as school details, support needs and address.
  • Contact details: here you will add contact details, such as your mobile number, email etc so that your university can let you know if you are successful or not.
  • Qualifications: Here you will show what grades and qualifications you have achieved so far and what qualifications you will achieve within the next academic year.
  • Work history: In this section, you will demonstrate any examples of work experience you may have done, for instance, a part-time job.
  • Personal statement, this section is important and gives you the opportunity to tell the university why you are applying and why you want to study that particular subject.

You must complete all five sections as part of your application process.

5. What Oxford/Cambridge are looking for in an applicant:

The application process for Oxford or Cambridge is notoriously rigorous. They are known to ask questions to test students in new ways, looking for an ideal candidate who has the depth of knowledge, intellectual curiosity & knowledge of the subject which are outside the normal parameters. In order to be this ideal candidate, you need to make sure to be reading widely, for instance, look into current affairs and any related subjects which would demonstrate you have a well-round idea of the subject you are interested in. You will need to show that your love for that subject is deep & that you go out of your way to nurture that love outside the classroom. For example, for maths & STEM subjects; you could start a STEM club or it could be as simple as starting chess at a young age.

6. Choosing between Oxford or Cambridge:

Most importantly, you need to be guided by what you want to study and your love for that subject. When choosing between the two universities, you assess whether you like the content & format of the course, thereby, giving you an indication of which university is best for you. Another important aspect to consider is the location, you cannot underestimate the importance of visiting the universities in order to ‘feel’ which is best for you. Moreover, you should look at who is teaching the course. These professors are the best in their field & will be a good indicator of who you want to teach your subject. A good tip is to visit these universities at term time as this would allow you can get a real flavour for what university life is like at either Oxford or Cambridge. If you follow all the advice written above, you should get a good idea as t which university to choose.